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Archive for the ‘The House Next Door’ Category

Slant Magazine: “House Playlist: A Skillz, Kim Ann Foxman, and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart”

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“Creature,” the solo debut from DJ, dance-music savant, and Hercules and Love Affair vocalist Kim Ann Foxman, is an unmitigated techno record, entirely absent of disco’s swing, full of the kind of electronic jamming found on an extended 12″, with a pop song stuck between the deep-house synth workouts. Foxman’s vocals, an ineffable mix of sassy, teflon diva and hyper-sincere, indie-pop chanteuse, sell the song’s creeping eroticism and make it something both menacing and dance-ready and very much a throwback to a time when everything was trying to sound like Inner City’s “Big Fun.” And that’s a really awesome time.

Written by Brandon

November 18th, 2010 at 3:51 am

Slant Magazine: “House Playlist: Curren$y, the Fresh & Onlys, the Go! Team, and Jamiroquai”


Wrote something about Curren$y’s “Michael Knight” for the new singles column over at The House Next Door, Slant Magazine’s blog…

Over producer Ski Beatz’s pairing of kung fu movie music and elegant G-funk, New-York-by-way-of-New-Orleans rapper Curren$y crams three casually intricate verses into less than three minutes—and finds a place for a delightfully absurd Knight Rider-referencing hook, complete with KITT sound effects. Filled with pothead punchlines (“I got high enough so I could autograph the sky”), wonky wordplay (“car windows” rhymed with “Carl Winslow”), and a few marvels of internal rhyming (“Everything with wings ain’t a plane, man” via his Southern accent becomes “Everythayng with wayngs ain’t a plane mayne”), this track from next month’s Pilot Talk 2 is more strangely beautiful, deceptively simple, chill-out rap from a guy getting ridiculously good at this sort of thing.

Written by Brandon

October 25th, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Slant Magazine: “Summer of ‘85: Rambo: First Blood Part II


For The House Next Door’s “Summer of ‘85″ series, me and comics artist Benjamin Marra talked a whole bunch about why Rambo: First Blood Part II rules. You may have casually encountered Marra’s artwork for Lil B (6 Kiss and the upcoming Black Ken) and Madlib (Madlib Medicine Show #5: The History of The Loop Digga), and you should totally order his comics Night Business and Gangsta Rap Posse if you’ve not read them. Click below to read our discussion…

Brandon Soderberg: Let’s talk about the waterfall scene towards the end because it inspired this discussion. Basically, Benjamin was part of a panel at the Small Press Expo (SPX) called “The New Action” that was talking to “indie” creators engaged with more visceral narrative styles. At one point in the discussion, Benjamin just kinda lovingly describes the scene, late in Rambo: First Blood Part II, where Rambo fires this explosive arrow at this guy on a waterfall and there’s like one killer beat between the arrow launching and the explosion and then—blam! The guy just gets decimated.

Benjamin Marra: Yeah, that whole scene really resonates with me. I really love it. The music, the way it’s edited, it all just really sticks in my head. I think the scene is emblematic of the action movies around that time. Death Wish 3, Cobra, Commando, The Running Man, Invasion USA, Red Dawn, feel, through the prism of time, completely bizarre. I get the feeling they were constructed without any self-awareness. I can only speculate really that what occurred in those movies at the time they came out was totally acceptable and normal action. That’s at least how I felt about them, but I was pretty young. If any of those movies were released today, they’d probably be perceived as satire.

Written by Brandon

June 29th, 2010 at 5:33 pm

The House Next Door: "The Wizened Sympathy of Good Hair"


Good Hair is a weird movie and if I had to compare it to anything I’ve seen as of late, it’d be The September Issue, just in being endlessly fascinating but not really sure what it’s trying to be. That said, a doc by Chris Rock about weaves that wedges in all kinds smart insight and a bunch of humanism is more than alright. You’ll love it when you watch it, you’ll kinda stop and be like “Waitaminute that could’ve done a lot more” when it ends and then, you realize Rock would probably cop to that anyways.

And still, Good Hair succeeds in not giving-in to any of the awful trends of snarky, stunt docs of the ‘aughts–it isn’t condescending and it isn’t sanctimonious and all serious and shit, either. Anyways, head over to The House Next Door to read my review of Good Hair:

Chris Rock is a comedian, not a documentarian. The success of Good Hair and it’s need-to-be-noted but ultimately irrelevant failures hinge on never forgetting this rather obvious fact. What that means is the movie indulges in being funny first and foremost, pretty much always at the expense of any excoriation.

Good Hair’s kinda conceit came from Rock’s two daughters, one of whom asked him why she didn’t have “good hair.” The set-up suggests that we’ll explore why his daughter thinks of her hair as, um, not good, but the movie actually does little of that. Instead it simply traces the ways “good hair” is attained and sorta holds the whole thing together via a twice-a-year, for-a-prize-of-20k hair-styling contest, which is so low-rent and absurd that Rock wisely steps back and quietly grins and primarily sympathizes with the competitors’ unimposing goals.

This sympathy makes the movie, but it’s a strange choice for a comedian and it’s out-of-step with the perspective of most humorous, politically-minded, star-driven documentaries. Rock’s not Sacha Baron-Cohen or Michael Moore here; he’s more a shticky Errol Morris or a hammy Werner Herzog, fascinated and moved by his subject to the point that the movie’s quality suffers even as its joshing humanity expands. Folksy jibing and absurd jokes always come first, but that doesn’t mean Good Hair doesn’t meander around some really interesting details, make some really good points, and stick itself out there. It’s neither snarky nor entirely understanding of the phenomenon and sub-phenomenons (hair relaxer, weaves, hair-stylist sub-culture, etc) surrounding “good hair.”

Written by Brandon

November 2nd, 2009 at 7:07 am

The House Next Door, Music Video Round-Up: Beyonce & Yo La Tengo

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Sorry about the lack of updates lately, you’ll just have to jump off-site to read my rambling. Trying to get back on-track this week though. For now, there’s another installment of my “Music Video Round-Up” column, this time talking about the wonderfully nutty video for Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” and the whatever but kinda cool video for Yo La Tengo’s “Here to Fall” and the transformative qualities of CGI when used properly, in both.

“One part Victoria’s Secret commercial, another part dream logic anti-narrative, and a CGI-assisted freakout all around, Adria Petty’s video for Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” one-ups the minimalism of the instantly iconic internet meme and, um, Kanye approved “Single Ladies.” Director Jaka Nava’s video for “Single Ladies” already dropped the sensory overload expectations of music videos for a basically blank set, in front of which Beyonce and her dancers could approximate the singularly-focused energy of a live dance performance. No narrative, no props (save for Beyonce’s robot hand), just dancing.

That odd performance piece couldn’t and shouldn’t be repeated and it’s why follow-up videos for “Diva” and “Ego” at least conceded to a setting, but now Beyonce and director Petty have found a way to make a video even more minimal, even more performance-based—via green-screen and computer-generated effects. Rarely ever is the use of CGI associated with minimalism—it’s more often connected to excess—but in “Sweet Dreams,” CGI’s employed to create a context-less void in which Beyonce and her dancers can blow our minds anew.

The effects in “Sweet Dreams” are used to erase background and setting only to then fill the void-like digital canvas with a hot mess of bodies, clothes, and dance moves. A swirl of sophisticated and “street” dance moves, fashionable nightwear, elegant dresses and, finally, a bizarre gold bodice—it’s an excess of body and action, not filmic techniques. The strange sterility of CGI, that weird dipped-in-Photoshop feeling, is employed to create a new kind of chaos, not really possible without computer effects.”

Written by Brandon

October 19th, 2009 at 1:22 pm

The House Next Door, Music Video Round-Up: Interview w/ Severed Ways’ Tony Stone

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So, my music video column on “The House Next Door” finally returns and I’m going to keep up a regular pace with it and not like, one every four months at the best. The first returning one is a little weird because it’s not about music videos really, but it is an interview with the film director Tony Stone who directed the absolutely amazing Viking, Black Metal movie Severed Ways. Stone and I talk about digital video, Michael Mann, metal’s appeal, and lots of other stuff. If you’ve not seen Severed Ways, please go rent it or buy it, you won’t be disappointed…

“After confusing critics at festivals and brief theater runs over the past two years, Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America—a set in 1007 AD, shot on digital video, heavy metal-scored, Viking anti-epic—made its way to DVD this past summer. Though most certainly not a music video, it’s a movie not only dominated by the interplay between music and images but one that apes the quiet-loud dynamics of the heavy metal music that makes up most of its score. Music is at the movie’s core and in that sense, seems appropriate for “Music Video Round-Up.”

Like an art metal album abruptly but successfully segueing from low-end riffing to Brian Eno-esque ambience, director (and co-star) Tony Stone’s Severed Ways bounces between Malick-esque patience and pulpy, in-your-face bursts of ugliness. Laconic hunting and gathering makes way for heathen church-burning. Wandering in the woods moves to the side for an awesomely unnecessary defecation scene. Imagine the atmosphere of your quasi-historical, Dungeons & Dragons-inspired metal video sucked of all the bombast and almost entirely focused on tiny activities of survival.

The result is one of the most bizarre and strangely moving films of the past bunch of years. And the film’s artfully jagged merger of opposites extends to its creation too; conceptualized, studied filmmaking sent into the Vermont woods, forcing on-the-fly, improvisation. Tony Stone was kind enough to break-down these unresolved tensions and why it was so necessary to go “off the grid” to make Severed Ways and explain metal’s rarefied appeal.”

Written by Brandon

October 12th, 2009 at 4:46 pm

The House Next Door: "Music Video Round-Up" Young Jeezy’s "My President" & Relics of Cynicism

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I talk about the Young Jeezy videos “My President” and “Crazy World”, as well as Killer Mike’s “Pressure” video. I’d also like to note that very quietly–a surprise in the hype-everything world of rap–that “My President” director Gabriel Hart has tacked-on a terrible, terrible intro to the video. He’s also re-edited it, and so we get less Bun B about to cry with excitement and just a general fucking-with the rhythm. I wrote my review when the original only existed and rather than re-write or qualify it, I tossed-in a few lines about the re-edit and kept my initial reading:

“In light of Obama’s election and it’s positive implications for our country (made more than ideal by big moments like the impending closure of Guantanamo Bay and minor ones like not totally clowning McDonald’s worker “Julio”), politically-engaged protest art has the odd effect of feeling passe and cynical. Fully aware dissent don’t end when something good happens, the premiere of Young Jeezy’s “Crazy World” video a week or so after Obama won the presidency, felt decadent and irrelevant, a relic of knowing cynicism that we could now look beyond, right? Right? RIGHT?”

Written by Brandon

February 18th, 2009 at 8:30 am

The House Next Door: Music Video Round-Up (Beyonce, Sea & Cake, Glen Campbell)


“Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” doesn’t really have verses or even a chorus, it’s all-hook, moving from one high-energy Beyonce shout to another, never really letting up. The titular hook’s rushed through in the same double-time as that keyboard line on-speed and Jake Nava’s video similarly starts and doesn’t stop. It’s all performance on basically no set at all, Beyonce kinda lip-syncs, instead focusing on her and the other two dancers’ Bob Fosse “Mexican Breakfast” walk-it-outs with minimal lighting tricks with minimal cuts.”"

Written by Brandon

November 19th, 2008 at 5:28 pm

The House Next Door: Music Video Round-Up (The Videos of M83)

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“Like “Graveyard Girl,” it ends with the outsider—or in this case, outsiders—getting the guy(s), but their video-ending make-out session with dread-locked roller-bladers is an age and community acceptable transference for the characters’ love for one another. The parents-acceptable culmination of the homoeroticism and doubling hinted at in the first scene, where the girls change in front of one another, intercuts with tight close-ups of each of them, making their bodies indistinguishable.

For all that Film Studies stuff though, Husson makes the same statement in other parts of the video in more playful ways. The appearance of the Siren-like skaters turns into an absurd Big Lebowski homage, which makes way for a brilliant and inexplicable cut to the girls downhill skating, perfectly matched to the song’s airy bridge. It doesn’t make conventional sense, but it’s perfect.”

Written by Brandon

September 25th, 2008 at 2:22 pm

The House Next Door: Music Video Round-Up (Lil Wayne & Kanye West)

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This is my first article in what will hopefully be an ongoing series/column type thing where I talk about music videos for the film blog ‘The House Next Door’:

“Just in time for the Olympics—and hey, even Michael Phelps is a Lil Wayne fan—comes the “Champion” video, featuring muppet Kanye going for gold. Mr. West’s king-of-everything bit got old like, two albums ago, but when a puppet version’s shown working-out, leading a group of fans equal parts fit and chubby on a glorious jog through L.A., flopping around on an American flag, and winning it all, the egomaniac schtick goes down a lot easier.”

Written by Brandon

August 26th, 2008 at 4:05 am